The Irish Central Bank discussion paper on macro-prudential policy tools published yesterday seems to be a trial balloon for possible caps on Loan-to-Income (LTI) and Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratios for new residential property mortgages in Ireland. The general theory behind imposing these limits is laid out clearly in that document; there is no reason to repeat it here. I want to discuss some notable features of the Irish environment which strengthen the case for these caps (but do not make the decision easy).
By Philip LaneOctober 1st, 2014
By Philip LaneOctober 1st, 2014
I will present the report in a Policy Institute seminar in TCD during 12-1 tomorrow Thursday in the IIIS seminar room (top floor, Arts Block). All welcome – no registration required.
By Philip LaneOctober 1st, 2014
The Central Bank has published its framework here.
See also the new Economic Letters:
‘Macro-prudential tools and credit risk of property lending at Irish banks’ (Economic Letter Vol. 2014 no. 10) by Niamh Hallissey, Robert Kelly and Terry O’Malley
“Housing market developments and household consumption,” by Daragh Clancy, Mary Cussen and Reamonn Lydon
Having read the Commission letter through it is clear that the game has moved to a different pitch. The key issue is not the 1991 transfer pricing arrangement or its subsequently revision in 2007. Yes, there was little objective basis for the 65/20 margins used and there was no reference to the arm’s length principle and the arrangement seemed to be reverse engineered, but there is nothing in the EC letter to say that the margins used were wrong and led to taxable income figures that were significantly out of line if a more careful and objective approach was taken in line with OECD standards (which weren’t introduced here until 2010).
There is no doubt the 1991 advance pricing arrangement (APA) was put together in a pretty arbitrary manner as indicated by the minutes and notes taken by the Revenue official but that was as much the nature of the regime at the time rather than any special or preferential treatment to Apple. The detailed nature of the records kept suggest it was not unusual.
Can it be argued that similar arrangements were not put in place for other companies? APAs on a cost-plus basis for entities that engage in the activities attributed to the Apple’s Irish operations are not unusual.
Apple Operations Europe:
- the "manufacture of a specialised line of personal computers."
- providing "shared services to Apple companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, including payroll services, centralised purchasing and a customer call centre."
Apple Sales International:
- the "procurement of Apple finished goods from third-party manufacturers"
- the "onward sale of those products to Apple-affiliated companies and other customers"
- "logistics operations involved in supplying Apple products from the third party manufacturers to Apple-affiliated companies and other customers."
Manufacturing, shared services, procurement and logistics are not high-profit activities. The Commission can argue that the 65/20 cost-plus margins in the 1991 APA and the updated margins in the revised 2007 agreement were "wrong" but they are unlikely to result in a material difference to the amount of tax Apple would have had to pay in Ireland. In monetary terms, any finding here would be relatively insignificant.
It is pretty clear that the issue has moved on and that these transfer pricing arrangements are no longer central. The key issue is Apple’s intellectual property, or more precisely, the location of Apple’s intellectual property.
If we look at the five items requested by the Commission in June letter published this week none of them relates to the pricing agreements. The information requested was:
- Provide the financial accounts of ASI and AOE for the period 2004-2013, in particular the P&L accounts.
- In the case of ASI single out in the P&L the amount of passive income each year and specifying if such passive income comes from Ireland.
- Provide the number of full time equivalent employees (hereinafter “FTE”) of ASI and of AOE over the same period (each end of reporting period). Provide the FTE of the Irish branch of ASI and of AOE for the same period (each end of accounting period).
- Provide the cost sharing agreement between Apple Inc., ASI and AOE in all its variations since 1989 until the last modification.
- Describe in detail the type of intellectual property covered by the cost sharing agreement.
It is clear the Commission are focusing on the ASI subsidiary as a whole and not just its Irish branch. The key issue is whether any of the intellectual property rights held by ASI are located in Ireland. Last year’s US Senate report contained a good deal of information on ASI. The post continues below the fold with a a selection of quotes relating to ASI, and its parent AOE, in the Senate report.
The document is here.
There is a lot in it and the extracts here just focus on one element of it: a 1991 transfer pricing agreement that was done on a cost-plus basis, i.e. the profit attributed to the Irish operation was based on the costs incurred by the Irish operation. This is not an unusual transfer pricing basis and, as expected, the amounts involved are relatively small, i.e. not billions.
The quirk is the structure of the agreement. For example the 1991 agreement for Apple Operations Europe was [from paragraph 31]:
According to that ruling, the net profit attributable to the AOE branch would be calculated as 65% of operating expenses up to an annual amount of USD [60-70] million and 20% of operating expenses in excess of USD [60-70] million.
In the notes of a meeting (attendees not provided) it was said that (paragraph 37):
Following further discussions it was agreed that, subject to receiving a satisfactory outcome to the capital allowance question, to accept a mark-up of 65% of the costs attributable to the Irish branch. In addition it was agreed to accept a mark-up of 20% on costs in excess of $[60-70]m in order not to prohibit the expansion of the Irish operations.
On the two margins applied the Commission notes the following (paragraph 63):
Second, the margin on branch costs agreed in the 1991 ruling, as described at recital (31), is either 65% or 20% depending on whether the operating costs are below or above USD [60-70] million. According to the excerpt at recital (37), the reduction of the margin after a certain level above USD [60-70] million would have been motivated by employment considerations, which is not a reasoning based on the arm’s length principle. In particular, the two margins of 20% and 65% are relatively far apart and, should the margin of 65% effectively constitute an arm’s length pricing, the margin of 20% would be unlikely to fall within the same range of pricing, while applying the same degree of prudence.
There are other elements as well including transfer pricing for some intellectual property that can be explored in the document.
There is lots of excitement this morning about a story in the Financial Times about the European Commission state-aid investigation into Apple’s tax arrangements in Ireland. The story first appeared online under the headline “Apple hit by Brussels finding over illegal Irish tax deals”. When put on the front page of today’s print edition the headline was “Apple hit by Brussels findings over Irish backroom tax deals”. The story begins:
Apple will be accused of prospering from illegal tax deals with the Irish government for more than two decades when Brussels this week unveils details of a probe that could leave the iPhone maker with a record fine of as much as several billions of euros.
Preliminary findings from the European Commission’s investigation into Apple’s tax affairs in Ireland, where it has had a rate of less than 2 per cent, claim the Silicon Valley company benefited from illicit state aid after striking backroom deals with Ireland’s authorities, according to people involved in the case.
The headline and story resulted in widespread opprobrium from the usual sources being directed at Ireland. The reality is that the headline is nonsense and the presentation of the story in the text was misleading (at best). Anyone with even a summary understanding of the issue would immediately see that, but there are plenty who love jumping to and jumping on adverse conclusions about Ireland’s corporation tax regime.
The errors include:
- there are no “fines” in state-aid cases
- the case does not involve “billions of euros”
- there are no “preliminary findings”
- there is no “rate of less than 2 per cent”
And that’s just the first two paragraphs!
At present Apple pays very little corporate income tax on its profit earned on sales made outside the US. These profits will be taxed based on the source-location of the risks, assets and functions from which the profits are derived. The risks, assets and functions that generate Apple’s profits are mainly in the US and under current rules the US is granted the taxing right for the bulk of Apple’s profits. The fact that the US allows Apple to defer the payment of this tax until the profits are transferred to a US-incorporated company is a matter for the US.
Sometimes we tend to use the word “repatriate” when it comes to these profits. But Apple’s non-US profits don’t have to be repatriated to the US; they go there directly and there is no stop-off in Ireland. Yes, Apple’s non-US profits are accumulated in Irish-incorporated companies but almost everything about these companies happens in the US. Using US rules, Apple was able to create this situation and maintain that these companies did not have a taxable presence in the US. The EC investigation will examine none of the headline issues about these companies highlighted in the US Senate Report last May.
The EC can only investigate the taxing of activity that happens in Ireland and decisions that are made in Ireland. In its June announcement, the EC said the Irish element of its investigation relates to:
the individual rulings issued by the Irish tax authorities on the calculation of the taxable profit allocated to the Irish branches of Apple Sales International and of Apple Operations Europe;
It is the profit attributed to just the Irish branches of the companies that is in question not the entire profits of these companies. In his opening statement to the US Senate hearing last May, Sen. Carl Levin (D) said: Read the rest of this entry »
By Philip LaneSeptember 29th, 2014
Update: I will present the report in a Policy Institute seminar on Thursday 2nd October, 12-1, in IIIS seminar room at TCD.
Former finance minister and EU commissioner Ray McSharry has contributed a chapter to the book of tributes to the late Brian Lenihan (Brian Lenihan, In Calm and in Crisis, Murphy, O’Rourke and Whelan (eds), Merrion Press 2014).
The chapter contains the following complete paragraph at page 111:
‘Brian had been keen to burn the big bondholders and we discussed this on a number of occasions. One morning I got a call about a quarter past eight and it was Brian. He told me that he was able to burn the bondholders and he was very happy because the European Central Bank President, Jean-Claude Trichet, had told him he could do it. This would have improved Ireland’s position significantly and it was going to be a big story, but later that day a now despondent Brian rang me back. He said Trichet had changed his mind because he realised that the main casualty if the bondholders were burnt would be big German and French banks. This was a disgraceful decision because the ECB is supposed to represent the interests of Europe generally, but they were clearly under the sway of the German and French banks. Even today, I still would not have much confidence in the ECB and until Europe gets a totally independent entity to defend its currency, the euro will remain a fragile currency’.
The context in McSharry’s piece indicates that
(i) the conversation took place in the summer or autumn of 2010, as the bank guarantee was coming to an end or had already ended, but prior to the EU/IMF programme, and
(ii) the bondholders referred to were bank, not sovereign, bondholders.
The phrase ‘…the main casualty if the bondholders were burnt would be big German and French banks…’ refers, it is reasonable to assume, not (or not only) to the direct losses that these banks would suffer as holders of the bonds in question (it is doubtful that they were big holders) but to the impact of default or haircuts in Ireland on their continued access to new debt funding from the bank bond market.
This reported conversation goes to the heart of Ireland’s unfinished business with the ECB. It is reasonable for the ECB president to display concern about the continued access of major European banks to important funding sources. Whether it is within the ECB’s powers under the statute to impose on an individual member state the cost of shoring up debt market access for Eurozone banks generally is not clear and will not be clarified until the European Court of Justice rules on the matter. The statute does not contain any explicit provisions conferring such an important power.
McSharry’s report of his conversation with Lenihan is further support for the view, which I have expressed many times, that Ireland should take a case against the ECB as provided for in the ECB statute. This is important for the credibility of the ECB as an independent central bank. Win or lose, referral of the matter to the ECJ would clarify whether the ECB possesses the powers it appeared to believe it had back in 2010. If the ECB can impose costs of policies aimed at stabilising markets across the common currency area on an individual member state it is time the member states knew about it.
By Philip LaneSeptember 25th, 2014
Vol 45, No 3, Autumn (2014)
Table of Contents
|Determinants of Pension Coverage and Retirement Income Replacement Rates – Evidence from TILDA|
|Income and Wealth in The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing|
|Vincent O’Sullivan, Brian Nolan, Alan Barrett, Cara Dooley||329–348|
|Informational Efficiency in Distressed Markets: The Case of European Corporate Bonds|
|Aurelio Fernández Bariviera, M. Belén Guercio, Lisana B. Martinez||349–369|
|The Socio-economic Gradient of Obesity in Ireland – Corrigendum|
Policy Section Articles
|The Risks of Intuition: Size, Costs and Economies of Scale in Local Government|
|Mark Callinan, Ronan Murphy, Aodh Quinlivan||371–403|
|Winners and Losers on the Roller-Coaster: Ireland, 2003-2011|
|The Impact of Training Programme Type and Duration on the Employment Chances of the Unemployed in Ireland|
|Seamus McGuinness, Philip J. O’Connell, Elish Kelly||425–450|
By Alan AhearneSeptember 24th, 2014
The latest reports from the Nevin Institute are available here.
By Ronan LyonsSeptember 23rd, 2014
There are some days when political myopia and an inability to join the dots is particularly difficult to accept. This is one.
On the one hand, we have the Simon Community’s latest annual report:
Over 1,400 people are forced to seek shelter in emergency accommodation in Dublin every night, according to the charity [Simon]. It believes there is little hope for these people of moving on to somewhere of their own in the long term, with at least 50% of people now stuck in emergency shelter for more than six months. The problem, it says, lies in the collapse of the private rented and social housing market, with additional housing also slow to come on stream.
On the other hand, we have these decisions from Dublin’s local authorities:
Dublin homeowners, the State’s biggest payers of local property tax, will have their bills cut next year, following the decision of councillors in three local authorities to lower the tax by 15 per cent. Dublin city councillors last night voted for the cut, despite warnings from chief executive Owen Keegan that the decision could hit homeless services.
Dublin’s local authorities are foregoing roughly €40m on an annual basis with these measures. The back of my envelope suggests that this amount, if used as collateral/deposit of one third to borrow the other two thirds, could have perhaps provided for building 1,000 units a year. I suggest bringing this up with your councillor the next time they knock on the door, proclaiming the virtues of knocking €80 off your property tax bill, while also claiming they will take action on homelessness.
There are two additional bitter pills to swallow. Firstly, this tax rebate is probably the most regressive one that could be dreamed up, with Ireland’s wealthiest citizens benefiting the most and the poorest third of society gaining nothing. And secondly, Ireland’s left-of-centre parties (particularly those not in Government) led the charge on this. The mind boggles.
Blame cannot lie entirely with local politicians, it must be said. Narrowly, if central government hadn’t given them a target of 15%, and instead let them do whatever they want with their property tax, but live with the consequences, things might have panned out differently.
More broadly, there will always be a segment of society who cannot afford to cover the costs involved in their accommodation, so there will always be a requirement for social housing. The government has long abdicated its duties in this regard.
By Philip LaneSeptember 22nd, 2014
The FT continues its focus on Ireland with his long article by Vincent Boland – here.
Conference: Financing SMEs in Economic Recovery
ESRI, 26/09/2014, 8.30am -1pm
The ESRI will hold a half-day conference focusing on the bank and non-bank financing environment of SMEs in economic recovery. The research presented aims to contribute to a policy environment that facilitates a smooth recovery in the SME sector. Programme outline below:
08.30 Registration and Coffee
09.00 Welcome: Professor Frances Ruane, Director, ESRI
09.05 Opening Address: Simon Harris, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Finance
Evidence on SME Financing: Ireland in a European Perspective
Chair: Fergal McCann, Central Bank of Ireland
09.30 Which Firms Apply for Credit in the Euro Area?
Annalisa Ferrando, European Central Bank
10.00 SME Financing Landscape in Ireland: A Comparative Perspective
Conor O’Toole, Economic and Social Research Institute
Policy Objectives and Supports for Funding SMEs
Chair: Niall O’Donnellan, Enterprise Ireland
11.00 SME Default in Ireland
Tara McIndoe-Calder, Central Bank Ireland
11.30 Policy Options for SME Financing in Ireland
Martina Lawless, Economic and Social Research Institute
12.00 Roundtable discussion
Chair: John Hogan, Department of Finance
Participants: Loretta O’Sullivan (BoI), Patricia Callan (Small Firms Association), John O’Sullivan (ACT Venture Capital ), Nick Ashmore (SBCI), Garrett Murray (Enterprise Ireland )
Please register at:
By Philip LaneSeptember 21st, 2014
James Surowiecki has an interesting piece on housing the homeless here.
The quarterly changes will attract plenty of attention but little can be judged from them given the volatility of the series, the possibility of revisions and the impact of the MNC and IFSC sectors.
Quarterly Changes: GDP +1.5%; GNP +0.6%
More significantly perhaps are the year-on-year changes for the first six months of the year.
- Real GDP (2012 prices)
- H1 2013: €85,163m
- H1 2014: €90,069m
That is an annual increase of 5.8%. For GNP the equivalent change is +6.0%. Wow!
Value added increased in all sectors when compared with H1 2013: (% = real annual growth, € = amount in 2012 prices)
- Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: +11.9% to €2.45bn
- Industry: +0.7% to €22.52bn
- with Building and Construction: +8.3% to €1.51bn
- Distribution, Transport, Communications and Software: +10.9% to €20.35bn
- Public Administration and Defence: +3.7% to €3.22bn
- Other Services (including implied rent): +3.3% to €33.90bn
- Taxes on goods/services less subsidies: +9.8% to €8.31bn
For fiscal rules junkies, nominal GDP for H1 2014 is €90.2 billion. Last April’s Stability Programme Update had a forecast of nominal GDP in 2014 of €168.4 billion. The methodological revisions completed by the CSO over the summer and the recent growth mean that a nominal GDP of around €180 billion is now likely this year. Sticking with the Department’s 3.6% nominal growth projection for next year gives a 2015 figure of €186.5 billion. These increases in the denominator will significantly improve the appearance of fiscal ratios.
Although net exports increased and contributed around 40% of the increase in GDP the remainder is due to domestic demand. Real total domestic demand in H1 2014 is 4.0% up on the equivalent period in 2013. Although all components are up (consumption +1.2%, government expenditure +5.2%) much of the increase is driven by investment which is up 11.3% year-on-year. In recent years much of the volatility in this component has been the result of aircraft purchases by leasing companies based in Ireland.
The current account of the Balance of Payments shows a surplus of 4.3% of GDP for H1 2014 compared to one of 2.5% of GDP for H1 2013.
By Philip LaneSeptember 16th, 2014
Paper by David Purdue and Rossa White here.
By Alan AhearneSeptember 16th, 2014
John O’Hagan cautions against irrational exuberance in the lead up to Budget 2015 in today’s Irish Times. Link is here.
The programme for the third European Aviation Conference, on the general theme of aviation infrastructure, is now available. One topic will be the forthcoming report of the Davies Commission, on expanding airport capacity in the South-East of the UK, though many other issues relating to airport and ATC infrastructure will also be covered. The conference takes place at Schiphol airport on 6th and 7th November. There is a substantial conference fee discount for students.
As usual the EAC is preceded by a more academic meeting of the German Aviation Research Society (GARS), which attracts aviation researches from across the globe; more information will be available at www.garsonline.de nearer the date.
Guest Post by Julien Mercille -The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland
By Philip LaneSeptember 14th, 2014
New book out:
The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland (Routledge), by Julien Mercille, University College Dublin.
The media have played an important role in presenting government policies enacted in response to the economic crisis since 2008. This book shows that the media have largely conveyed government views uncritically, with only a few exceptions (some of which are contributors to irisheconomy!). Throughout, Ireland is compared with contemporary and historical examples to contextualise the arguments made. The book covers the housing bubble that led to the crash, the rescue of financial institutions by the state, the role of the European institutions and the International Monetary Fund, austerity, and the possibility of leaving the eurozone for Europe’s peripheral countries. The Irish Times, Indo, Sindo, Sunday Business Post, Sunday Times and RTE are all covered.
“A book of record… An exceptionally rare example of an academically rigorous analysis forcing the powerful light of transparency and exposure into the murky world of Irish policy advocacy and punditry… A captivating account.”
Constantin Gurdgiev, Trinity College Dublin
“One of the most important political economy books of the year… Set to become the definitive account of the media’s role in Ireland’s boom and bust.”
Dr. Tom McDonnell, Macroeconomist at the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI)
“Tells the story of the economic crisis well and explains the media’s role in convincing the public that it was all very complicated and that government policy can do little to improve the situation.”
Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research
“Anyone who cares about democracy and economic policy should read this book and be deeply worried by it.”
Mark Blyth, Professor of International Political Economy, Brown University and author of Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea
“A stinging critique of how Irish media narrowed the debate on crisis and austerity.”
Seán Ó Riain, Author of The Rise and Fall of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger
“Outstanding research… Meticulous, balanced and clear.”
Costas Lapavitsas, Professor of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
“Engaging, lively, critical… A must read.”
Professor Rob Kitchin, National University of Ireland Maynooth
“An invaluable concise history of Ireland’s public discussion of economic issues.”
Terrence McDonough, Professor of Economics, National University of Ireland Galway
By Philip LaneSeptember 12th, 2014
The list is here. In addition to the obvious candidates, I was pleased to see the inclusion of Anne Wren (affiliated with the IIIS here at TCD), with the citation reading:
Wren’s work on the service economy deserves to be better known. The judges said that reading her work on low wages in the services sector had the effect of ‘turning on a light-bulb’ for them and noted that The Political Economy of the Service Transition was ‘a book for our times’. As a research associate of the Institute for International Integration Studies at Trinity College, Dublin, she combines economic insight with political acuity.
By Colin ScottSeptember 11th, 2014
The nominees for, and configuration of, the portfolios in the European Commission named by Jean-Claude Junckers this week gives some hint of the priorities in European governance over coming years. In this context we might ask how significant is it that Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans has been nominated as First Vice President with responsibilities to include Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights? At first glance this portfolio appears to reflect procedural rather than substantive concerns for the new Commission. The mission letter from President-Elect Junckers suggests that the brief is one which crosses the concerns of all the other portfolios indicating a recognition of the link between process and performance on key issues such as regulation.
Maynooth University Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting in association with FMC2 (Financial Mathematics and Computation Research Cluster) are hosting a one-day conference on Financial Crises: Transmission and Consequences on Wednesday, September 24 in Renehan Hall, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Co.Kildare.
The event brings together leading international and domestic experts on financial crises, contagion and banking. The full programme of speakers and presentations is shown below. We invite you to join us in Maynooth. Registration is free, but please confirm your attendance by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org. The conference programme is shown below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »
By Frank BarrySeptember 10th, 2014
Thanks to readers for the valuable comments on my last post on Scottish independence. I have just received the transcript (here) of some brief remarks I made on the above topic at a recent conference in the UK.
Many readers of Irish Economy are likely to be aware of a project to rethink the teaching of Economics, linked to the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and organised by a committee chaired by Professor Wendy Carlin of UCL. Some people associated with this blog, including Kevin O’Rourke, are also involved in this work.
On my preliminary and (so far) partial reading of ‘The Economy’, it achieves its goal of being strikingly different to the standard first-year textbook. It places at the centre of the story familiar ideas that students and the public expect to feature in Economics and understand better through Economics, including capitalism, technology, living standards, the environment, institutions, and property rights before turning to the more abstract aspects of microeconomics. All the bells and whistles of digital publication are there too including hyperlinks to many of the readings. And of course it’s all freely available. The organisers are seeking user (student and faculty) feedback via a Facebook page and it seems there is supplementary material to follow in due course.
By Philip LaneSeptember 8th, 2014
By Ronan LyonsSeptember 8th, 2014
Later this month sees the launch of “From Prosperity to Austerity: A socio-cultural critique of the Celtic Tiger and its Aftermath”, a book on the Irish economy and society edited by Eamon Maher (IT Tallaght) and Eugene O’Brien and published by Manchester University Press.
The launch take places 6pm, Thursday September 25 in Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street. Brian Lucey (TCD) will giving an address at the launch – and if that weren’t incentive enough to head along, there will also be refreshments!